To associate professor of anthropology Keith Murphy, that Tarva bed frame from Ikea is more than just slat A and rail B held together with bolt C.  Instead, such design schemes are imbued with social and political meaning, according to his recent book “Swedish Design: An Ethnography.”

Whether it’s through linguistics, gestures or Scandinavian furniture design, his explorations of the relationships between language, material culture, and human experience have made this University of California, Irvine social sciences faculty member a favorite with students and colleagues. He will be honored as Professor of the Year at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching. The event is scheduled for 4:30-7 p.m., Thursday, May 5, in Doheny Beach Rooms A and B of the UCI Student Center.

“I’m honored and grateful for being nominated and selected as Professor of the Year,” Murphy says. “One of the things I love most about teaching students at UCI is that I learn so much from them every day. I teach anthropology, and part of my teaching philosophy is to try to make the complex concepts and theories we cover relevant to students, to empower them to analyze their own experiences through the tools social science offers. But to do that effectively, I really need to understand my students’ point of view – and learning from them as they teach me about their world is one of the best parts of the job.”

The Celebration of Teaching, founded in 1992,  is a chance to highlight the excellent teaching that happens everywhere on campus and for faculty to learn about a range of successful techniques,” says Michael Dennin, vice provost for teaching and learning in the Division of Undergraduate Education.

“The event brings together winners selected by deans as well as campus winners selected by the Academic Senate,” he says. “It allows us to recognize great faculty, such as Keith Murphy, who has demonstrated how creative course design and lecturing can both challenge students in new ways and enhance their educational experience.”

UCI’s 10-year strategic plan, released in February, emphasizes the importance of fostering excellence in teaching and learning. Improved training and rigorous peer and student evaluation are among the new programs expected to help faculty promote creative expression and human inquiry deemed essential to research and education.

In Murphy’s classes, students develop vital skills in critical analysis, according to the nomination letter from fellow faculty members.

“Professor Murphy has garnered a well-rounded reputation across campus as a fantastic teacher of language and culture,” the letter states. “He is able to relate in his classrooms the importance of language in shaping social life while also incorporating his scholarly interests on the relationship between language, material culture and human experience… he truly represents the best of teaching on our campus.”

Since the Celebration of Teaching was founded in 1992, colleagues and faculty have recognized more than 300 professors, lecturers and teaching assistants. All schools are represented in this campus initiative.

A complete list of honorees is available on the Celebration of Teaching website. Those honored from the School of Social Sciences include:

Professor of the Year
  • Keith Murphy, Anthropology, School of Social Sciences
Instructional Technology Innovation (Co-Award)
  • Mathew Beckmann, Political Science, School of Social Sciences
School Honoree:
  • Prof. Belinda Campos, School of Social Sciences
Pedagogical Fellows:
  • Susan Duncan, Cognitive Sciences
  • Jessica Kizer, Sociology
  • Ryan Sauchelli, Political Science
  • Mariam Ashtiani, Sociology


-Paula Korn, UCI